Making preparations

So, looks like I’ll get my wish about moving on from this dump – I’ve been made redundant. As of today, I’m working my three weeks’ notice.

Worst part about it is I can’t even blame Jezza, though I won’t pretend the hint of glee under his faux-regret tone went unnoticed. Turns out the experiment with “Tannoy Greeters” has been officially designated a flop, and the Colmart family are disinheriting us all. They’re going to have announcements recorded weeks in advance by a professional polenta-pusher with an Equity card, and piped into all stores on the half hour, every half hour. Next time I pass by the Leisure and Lifestyle aisles and hear the rustle of a malicious whisper, I’ll remember that, and smile. Nothing else to do now but make preparations for my departure.

That in mind, I believe I’ve got a meme owing on preparations, and a little barney on a friend’s blog the other day got me thinking about isolation and quarantine. Everybody’s got their Blood Flu emergency box of beans and bandages, but nobody’s really talking about how they’ll avoid catching the virus – because, y’know, much as I’d hate to be caught without supplies, the first rule of survival is don’t be dead. In this case, that means being in isolation before everyone else thinks of it, so I’m going to take back my disparaging remarks about Jack’s attempt to isolate himself from his own family, even though there’s not a sniff of flu as yet on his half of the continent. Myself, I don’t pretend to be in anything resembling a “quarantine”, but reading about Mei’s situation gives me an awareness of when I’m in contact with people, and I realise I’ve been living in pretty isolated circumstances as a matter of routine.

I always had to be self-reliant. My folks washed their hands of me the day I told them I wanted to go to drama school. Gifted with what my mother liked to call a face for radio and a body for truck-driving, I’m not exactly inundated with auditions, but I work and I manage. When anything’s gone wrong in my life, whether it’s with a contract or the plumbing, I’ve looked up how to fix it myself before calling out the experts. It’s partly a lack of funds, and partly, for want of a better word, pride – if I can do something for myself, I will. I live alone, work alone and generally avoid people. I shop online, drive to work, cook and eat alone, spend my leisure time walking and camping in the outback alone. In fact, at this point, I probably haven’t been in especially close proximity to another human being for longer than Mei. Which means that if the Blood Flu is, as we speak, spreading through Australia in its silent phase, I’m safe as a cheese sarnie at a vegan convention.

Could misanthropy be my salvation? Should I thank my parents for instilling in me a crippling social dysfunction? I am making some preparations, but just to be especially paranoid or mysterious or both, I’m not going to say on a public forum what they are. Let it be known, though: I got my ideas. I’m researching systems and squirrelling away supplies. I’m gonna be just fine.

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I gotta get out of this place.

So Blood Flu panic is heating up down here since that maybe-possibly-probably-not diagnosis in Cairns. You can’t walk down a high street without getting half a dozen bottles of steri-spray thrown at you, and Jezza’s raving ’cause we just ordered a truck-load of the stuff and now every quack, god-squad and insurance peddler is giving it away outside the door.

I didn’t feel like taking the lunchtime walk of shame to sit on my own in the caf today. I mostly eat in the DJ booth these days, which is a little claustrophobic but does mean I don’t even have to pass Coll, though that doesn’t stop him shouting me his latest plots and schemes, or his analysis on how liberal immigration policies will kill us all. At least he doesn’t seem to expect a response.

I don’t know why he confides in me, except that I’m a captive audience given the room arrangement. He doesn’t tell me everything, though. I know where the security cameras are, and I’ve seen images on his monitors from places they aren’t. I reckon the creepy fucker spends as much time watching the staff as the stock. I take a careful sweep of this room at the start of the day, I tell ya. I’d dob him in, only I reckon Jezza’s in on it. It would explain his rumoured ability to hear a shelf-stacker whisper “union” from two floors away.

I got to get out of here before I lose sight of the last road sign back to sanity.

Still hating work…

Did I mention lately that I hate my job? More specifically, I hate my co-workers; not that I actually work alongside anybody as such, but I’ve just managed to up the generalised levels of hate in the vicinity of the entire store, which is quite an achievement for a lunch hour in which I intended to walk round the block and eat a Cherry Cheesecake.

It started with a desperate attempt to avoid conversation with Coll. I usually wait until he’s distracted before heading through the security room, and he seemed to be engrossed in one of his nostrils when I made a dash for it. Just as I reached the outer door, though, his hand shot out to a monitor on which a toddler could be seen chewing on a sealed pack of Tim Tams while its mother scooped chocolate yogurts into the basket.
“Lain! C’mere! Theft in progress,” he said, zooming in as milk-teeth and drool penetrated the outer layer of packaging.
I didn’t want to know, but I couldn’t help it.
“How d’ya mean theft?”
“Kid’s eating the goods. Not been paid for.”
“C’mon, Coll, everyone shuts up their brats with a snack, you don’t know she won’t pay.”
He smirked at me, triumphant.
“This kid’s known to me. Seen him at it before. He’ll eat a couple and drop the packet somewhere so it won’t be on ’em when they leave. Reckons he’s disposed of all the evidence, but this time I got a clear line of sight, all backed up and copied. Little bastard’s going down.”
I was searching for the words that would get me out of air-sharing distance in the minimum timeframe when Kris appeared at the top of the stairs and started on the usual “I know you normally have a little you-space at lunchtime, but Fliss and me were wondering—” so I jumped at the long-avoided lunch date.

It has to be said, she handled the shock well. I’d thought she only even asked anymore out of a misjudged sense of obligation, but it seems Kris and Fliss, who work the Leisure and Lifestyle aisles, genuinely wanted to get to know me better. Well, I sure made them regret that.

What I didn’t realise was that this was a special retirement lunch for Supervisor Sam (apparently there’d been a “Community Memo”, but I’ve got a filter to delete those.) By the time I realised it was not going to be three of us grabbing a Panini at the store café but a whole bunch of people, including Jezza, at a semi-fancy restaurant two blocks down, it was too late to do anything about it. I am not good with formality – I’m barely passable at informality, and most comfortable with no mality at all. But given that I earn a living as a loudmouth, people don’t get that. Elaine’s so funny and confident and loud – she’ll be the life of the party! So every time there’s a lull and people stop talking, they turn and look at me, like I’m meant to be entertaining them. That’s a lot of pressure for a Friday lunchtime. So naturally I started drinking.

Those of you who heard some of my whimsical anecdotes around the campfire after a couple of tinnies can probably finish this story for yourselves. I can’t remember exactly what it was I said to Jezza when he told me how much he’d appreciated my recent lack of deviation from the script, but it was specific, derogatory and involved polenta.

I’m still waiting for the comeback. I doubt he’ll actually fire me – not for this, anyhow – that’d make him look petty, and he’d hate to look petty. But the only reason he’s not fired me before now is the knowledge that he’ll get quizzed about it by my totally unsought and slightly unsettling fan club downstairs. Now they’ve seen me in action, up close and personal, I doubt he’ll have as much difficulty justifying it, and with Sam’s imminent departure putting a promotion in the offing, nobody’ll be wanting to cross Jezza. Guess my days here are numbered.

Pushing Polenta

Yeah, yeah – I am still writing this thing, though I’ve mostly been spending my online time chatting with my friend Mei who’s stranded in Beijing for the holidays with no word about her family.  That’s some scary shit happening out there – whether it’s Bird Flu or not, who knows, but there’s some kind of epidemic going down and whole provinces are being cut off.  The stories trickling out through blogs and independent newsnets are pretty horrific.  If you’ve got a minute and an ounce of human compassion, go make a donation.  If not – make one anyway, you miserable bastard.

I, meanwhile, continue to be a cheery little member of the dysfunctional Colmart family. Today, I found a note on my desk: “Remember to push the fucking Polenta – we overstocked again. Jezza.”  Polenta is the bane of my life.  It has the flavour and consistency of soggy sand, it’s overpriced, it doesn’t even look appetising, and I had to spend all day enthusing about it every hour, on the hour, because somebody in marketing decided it’s trendy and they won’t stop ordering the stuff in even though no fucker buys it.  At least I followed the golden rule of getting the price reduction in three times each announcement, even if one was to say it made a 50% saving on standard wall-filler, and another suggesting shoppers donate the saving to the Asian Flu appeal.   I knew I’d catch shit for it, but what do you do with material like that?

Jezza wasn’t impressed.  “What do you think this is, Comic Relief?” he wheezed at me when he’d dragged himself up the stairs and through the security room.  “Tell them what the offers are, point them to the premium goods, manage the crowds when the checkouts are closing, but for fuck’s sake stop entertaining them!  This is the last fucking time, Elaine – you can do the comedy circuit when you’re fucking fired!”  Jezza loves to say “fuck”, he thinks it makes him one of us.

So, not my best day, and it means my witty banter will be keeping a low profile at work for the next couple of weeks.  No fun to be had here, shoppers – come back in the sales.

And don’t forget to make that donation.  I got my eye on you, mate.

Security Issues

Greetings, shoppers!  Here I am, blogging at you live from Colmart, where I have been given a rare half day off the air while security try to identify the source of a shrinkage crisis, meaning a group of swaggering primates who keep two-way radios holstered like pistols in their pants have commandeered my studio (well, closet) for their complex sting operation.  At least it’s keeping Coll, head of security and the Columbo of Colmart, busy and out of my face.

For those who don’t know, Colmart is the major supermarket in my neck of the woods.  It’s risen to the top of the Food Chain food chain by rebranding itself from a massive conglomerate to just another family corner shop – except, y’know, bigger.  Colmart’s employees are one big, happy family – kind of like the Mafia, but without the job security, and worse pension prospects.  My job as a Greeter is to make tannoy announcements aimed at disguising the relentless dreariness of the shopping experience behind a manic enthusiasm for mundanity.

This means I spend my day sitting in a five foot square annex to the security office, thinking of friendly and personal ways to tell customers that buying an extra pack of bog roll will significantly enhance their lives, and waiting for lunchtime or death, preferably death as there’s less chance of being collared by Coll at the exit.  I don’t know what ingenious little quasi-legal scheme of hidden cameras and planted RFIDs he’s concocted to take down the international shop-lifters’ conspiracy this time, but I know he’ll want to tell me all about it before I get through the door.